People talk about the world getting smaller, but actually, in the working world, the opportunities keep expanding. More and more, organisations are now operating globally and hiring from a worldwide pool. It’s no longer all about location, location, location because businesses can select their teams from anywhere around the world.
Diversity of expertise and cultures is exciting for any organisation and a remote team can bring so much.
But they need a little in return. It’s important to look after remote teams – they may be miles apart geographically, but they need the same reassurance and sense of belonging that a “local’’ office would normally provide.
So, what’s one of the first things that you should think about if you have a global team? Wellbeing. It’s what really matters.
Why employee wellbeing matters
The workplace can be a stressful place. Business can be fast paced, and employees need support. We all know that the world’s a nicer place if we look out for those around us.
Not only that but taking care of your teams’ wellbeing and mental health will keep your whole organisation healthy too. The Mental Health Foundation have proved that it’s a plus for businesses too. Recently published statistics showed that a well-balanced, content team will be not only happier but also 12% more productive. Happy people are productive people.
The impact of remote working on global employee wellbeing
There has been a landslide shift in the way we work in the last few years. Tech had to keep up with lockdowns, and so did our mind-set as employees. Once we knew we could work from anywhere in the world, the horizons opened up. And the technology made it possible for us to work from home, or even a beach in Italy.
Which can be great—advanced technology allows us to be connected anywhere, even via the cloud, so you can be in Sydney working virtually with a colleague in Munich, remote hours can be more flexible, no more daily commute and running for the 8.45 train, and organisations can save a small fortune on premises and rents.
All this is positive. But, working remotely can also be tough; it can leave you feeling isolated. An office can be a kitchen table, a desk under the stairs, a sofa, anywhere you can open a laptop and get a connection.
While for some working from home is a dream ticket, for others it’s a quite scary prospect. Imagine trying to get your day’s work done with a toddler under your feet. Or in a shared house where your flatmates live a nocturnal life.
When you only ever meet your team via zoom, your global workplace can in fact be quite a lonely place.
Supporting global employee wellbeing in remote teams
We want to hire globally, and we want to provide parity in supporting all our global people.
Whether you’re looking after 2 remote workers or 200, there are some things which can help keep everyone feeling connected and might make a world of difference to their wellbeing. It can be a challenge across a global organisation, but it’s vital to discover what works best for your team.
1. Offer flexible working hours
The beauty of being able to work remotely is that you can put together a global team. It doesn’t matter where anyone lives anymore (and that 8.45am train is totally irrelevant now!).
However, you might find you have a lot of different time zones to navigate when scheduling a 9am morning zoom meeting. So, be flexible. If you need to schedule a catch up, choose a time that accommodates the different time zones, and let your teams work the hours in between which suit them.
People have lives outside of work (they might not want to admit it to the boss, but work isn’t always the first thing they’re setting their morning alarm for). And you might just find productivity soars if you let people find the perfect hours for them.
A good work/life balance is important. No one needs to burn out as they are forever struggling to start the day at 4am ‘their time’ just so they can walk the dog, drop their kids to school and still make your 9am ‘your time’ meeting.
2. Provide access to mental health resources
There may be moments when a member of the team needs a little bit of extra support. Remote working is physically isolating, and mentally isolating too when trying to work and fit in across cultures. Counselling can help. Since remote workers may not have access to in-person counselling services, there are now a lot of services available online instead. You need to point this out and direct employees to the help they need.
Mental health Apps can be a flexible solution. Support groups on online forums such as Facebook might offer the lifeline needed. They can connect people with similar experiences and help them support each other. Many companies offer their own counselling via Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s). These provide free, confidential help and resources for emotional support.
3. Encourage regular breaks
If you’re working from home, it’s easy to let the morning merge into afternoon and then evening. There aren’t the usual prompts and distractions from colleagues to help punctuate the day. Encourage your remote teams to take regular breaks, leave their desk and turn off their screen, take a stroll outside, chat to a neighbour.
Everyone needs to recharge, rest their eyes and stretch out those hunched up limbs. A fresh pair of eyes when the screen turns back on will keep workers feeling more human, happier and can work wonders with focus and problem solving.
4. Foster a sense of community
People need people. No man is an Island and all that. It’s a rare human who doesn’t ever want to feel connected to his peers. Working remotely can be tricky: for some, whole days can pass without talking to a human, even via screen or phone.
Those five-minute office chit chats, how was your weekend? did you watch the game last night? are actually some of the most important conversations a team can have. These are the moments where colleagues begin to relax and connect and trust each other. You need to recreate these water cooler moments in a remote setting.
So set up a virtual bingo game, quiz, or happy hour. Even Zoom team building can go a long way in helping to reconnect a team in far-flung places. Chat rooms and online forums for discussion might appeal to some, group yoga to others. Most of all, make sure everyone’s checking in and feeling included.
5. Promote cultural awareness and sensitivity
There may be employees from a host of different cultures in any one global team. To work well together, each team member needs to feel valued and understood. Education will help teams understand each other’s backgrounds and lifestyles.
As an employer you can set up webinars, online courses, and cultural training. Emphasising the importance of global diversity and encouraging inclusion will create a safe atmosphere where workers can feel free to celebrate their unique backgrounds. Keep the lines of communication easy and open. If you have good video conferencing tools, chat rooms and forums set up, then the channels are all there and colleagues will find it easier to collaborate and communicate.
And last but not least, remember to acknowledge cultural events and holidays. Workers will feel valued and recognised when they receive those wishes for Diwali, Chinese New Year or Hanukkah.
6. Offer language support
Not everyone has English as their first, second, third or even fourth, language. Language can be the greatest barrier of all in a global organisation, and especially for remote workers. There’s no greater challenge to communication if one person’s German is another’s gibberish. No one wants to feel unheard and unable to get their point across. Language support can be a game changer. Hiring interpreters, providing translation services, or offering language classes can all help employees communicate better.
7. Support bodies as well as minds
Now are we sitting comfortably? Perhaps not. These days we’re used to offices with state-of-the-art equipment: standing desks, multi adjustable chairs and monitors with just the right light and tilt. Bet you don’t have that at home though.
And home is just where many of your global workers are now spending long hours, doing all your work. Perhaps it would be a good investment to provide the ergonomic chairs, the monitor risers, all the furniture which can minimise the risk of injuries and keep workers comfortable.
8. Open the communication channels
In so many ways we’re incredibly lucky. New technology makes communication across countries, time zones and cultures so much easier. Remote workers don’t need to feel like they’re operating in a bubble, not when there are so many means of connecting with their peers and their managers.
As a global organisation you can make sure you set out clear directives on how to keep in touch, and which channels you use for each task. Video conferencing allows face to face communication and quick feedback. Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams are all invaluable in a remote workplace. Messaging apps are great for quick messages between team members. You can also file share on them. Ideal for group projects. Project management tools can keep track of tasks, deadlines and progress updates.
As well as utilising this arsenal of comms equipment, it’s vital supervisors schedule in regular check-ins to keep workers engaged and motivated. A business wide communication platform will also encourage information sharing not only from the top down, but also sideways as teams keep each other up to date.
9. Tailor employee benefits to each location
The sure-fire way to ensure wellbeing and happiness? Give the people what they want. Well, within reason! A global team will come with a global-sized list of varied requests and priorities.
Tailoring global employee benefits in each location will satisfy everyone. It’s important to remember to check local laws and regulations. Each country may have different laws around benefits. But once this is done you can put together an appropriate package. It wasn’t a joke, that global-sized list of requests. Do make a list. Survey employees, let them fill in a questionnaire and really listen to their feedback on what benefits work for them in their location. And be flexible. Offering a package that allows employees to choose what works for them can be the best way to accommodate differences across all locations.
Can you manage all this alone?
Simply put, ensuring employee wellbeing is all about looking after people. And all the most experienced HR teams will know that it’s a full-time job. One that’s very rewarding, but also very demanding.
On a global scale it can be difficult to do effectively without a lot of local knowledge.
Cintra Global has all this local expertise in all the locations you need. Our international HR services can support you with every stage of an employee lifecycle – from engagement, all the way through salary, promotions, benefits and pensions.